Understanding #mugabe

via People and Politics: Understanding Mugabe By Tom Courtright February 5, 2014 TheKnoxStudent

Over the past week, internationally-despised Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been drumming up support from fellow African leaders to force the European Union to invite him to the EU-African Union summit set for April.

The support, or lack of criticism that Mugabe gets from several of his regional neighbors has clashed strongly with the view from the West, and it is largely a question of historical memory — the classic question of freedom fighter or terrorist.

He is part of an older generation of anti-colonial fighters, and enjoys support from regional powers like South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC), who fought a similar battle in South Africa.

President Mugabe gained power in the multiparty elections held in the wake of the Rhodesian Bush War, a vicious conflict that pitted a British-descended white supremacist government against several black African militant groups.

Three years after coming into power, friction arose between ZANU and fellow ex-rebel group ZAPU, and Mugabe ordered the Gukurahundi— the murder of tens of thousands of civilians in Matabeleland (the homeland of the ZAPU-supporting Ndebele people) by North Korean-trained troops.

At the time few in the country could believe it was happening and many of the northern Shona people still deny such a massacre took place.

Rhodesia, modern-day Zimbabwe, was known as the breadbasket of Africa — most white migrants to the country in the first half of the 20th century were farmers, and employed cheap black labor to build an expansive and successful agricultural sector.

As a result, the issue of land ownership has been a contentious political issue in the country. The 1979 Lancaster House Agreement, which spelt out the political framework for majority rule, also dictated that the issue of land reform be delayed by a decade.

However, little effective reform was enacted in the 1990s, when the Zimbabwean economy outperformed struggling neighbors. Instead, as his support waned, he ordered that fellow veterans should be able to take over the remaining white-owned farms in 2000.

But without an organization to manage this transition, it turned into a violent free-for-all, mobs set to work prying white farmers off their land and more than half of the remaining 2,500 white farmers lost their land.

Referred to in his own country as ‘Bob,’ President Mugabe has had an increasingly tough time getting younger Zimbabweans — who have known only him in office and are agitating for change — on his side.

In the 2008 election, he faced a large, legitimate opposition for the first time and when he in all likelihood lost to Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of elections, Mugabe delayed the vote count, altered it, and violently destroyed the opposition. Thus he voted himself back into office in the second round.

But this time the press was worse and sanctions put strain on an economy already struggling from the loss of its farms. Mugabe was pressured into offering a power-sharing deal to Tsvangirai, who took it, considering it to be an important step.

However Mugabe repeatedly outmaneuvered Tsvangirai, releasing very little power and deflecting criticism from the President’s office to Prime Minister Tsvangirai.

Last year, he succeeded in voting himself back into power (this time without troublesome Morgan), while a new constitution sets presidential term limits at 10 years — not retroactive. His birthday, in a few weeks, will see him begin his 10th decade on earth.

Mugabe’s office is essentially betting on him dying before this and thus passing power to his deputies — those involved with the Gukurahundi massacre.

Bob’s time in power reminds us of two important lessons: revolutionaries do not necessarily make good or just leaders in power, and the colonial period is not as well-buried as many in the West would like to fool themselves into believing.



  • comment-avatar
    MikeH 9 years ago

    What is there to understand ? 34 years later mugabe remains the terrorist he was before 1980.

  • comment-avatar
    John Thomas 9 years ago

    Thug is more like it

  • comment-avatar
    Stingray 9 years ago

    He once said ‘ strike fear into the heart of the whiteman our real enemy. Make him tremble ‘ and some people call him a stateman.

  • comment-avatar
    Mlimo 9 years ago

    Nothing to understand he said in 1980 that whites were not welcome most have left we failed to be a non racial society we discriminated against the whites at our expense. Now we must pay and dearly. We changed the whites for a bigger and worse monster called zanupf. We failed to see why the whites did not want to see Mugabe in . We are a stupid people to be blinded by mugabe s hatred of the Ndebele and the whites. We are stupid cos we voted for him. We are stupid because we cannot remove him. We are stupid to believe the lies that flow from government house. Wake up Zimbabwe.

    • comment-avatar
      nesbert majoni 9 years ago

      We are not as stupid as you believe because Mugabe refuses to go even if he loses an election. The opposition led us into toppling Mugabe in 2008 but still he refused to go. Mugabe knows his past will gets him into hot water if he steps down that’s why he want to die in the office. He is fighting for his life.

    • comment-avatar
      African 9 years ago

      hmm, I don’t know what is more ridiculous . Your stupidity or overuse of the word ‘stupid’.